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July 18, 2007

Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself (actually, I've never said it this well.) (Personal)

The following sequence of 2 posts provoked an eloquent rant from a friend of mine. I'm posting them all here because they delivers my message so much more effectively than I've ever been able to. It was sent to me by a mutual friend who discovered it it on the discussion list of a medical marijuana suppport organization (Americans for Safe Access).

 I've redacted names to preserve the anonymity of the contributors and also reversed the order of individual messages so they appear in the same order they did originally.  

Doctor Tom

To: ASA LIST <losangeles@lists.safeaccessnow.org>
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007 3:42:52 PM
Subject: [losangeles] recreational users at dispensaries


I am just getting familiar with the medical marijuana scene out here in California, since I only moved here 3 months ago from the DC area.  First let me say how refreshing it is to see all the activity!  It is very encouraging to those of us in other parts of the country.

Second, there is no doubt that many people are helped in many ways by marijuana.  MS, chronic pain, AIDS wasting, alcoholism, migraines, epilepsy, asthma, and countless other conditions are alleviated or even reversed by cannabis.  It truly can be a wonder drug.

However, I think we all need to admit that the dispensaries are often, perhaps even mostly, used by people who have managed to get a medical card or doctor's recommendation, but who don't use cannabis for medicinal reasons, but rather simply for fun.  This is pretty clearly evident by the demographics of who enters the clubs, the advertising, the names of the clubs, etc.

Now, I want marijuana fully legalized for everyone, regardless of medical condition.  Some medical advocates may share that policy goal, but maybe not all.

I suspect the real problem with dispensaries being used as sources for recreational pot is that the doctors are giving out recommendations with no real medical scrutiny.  Pay $150, get a recommendation; it's really easy.  Surely not all docs work this way, but it's pretty clear that many do.

Does the LA public believe that only true medical users go to the clubs?  If they realize that many recreational users are going, do they even care?  Maybe there are some stats on polling numbers.

I think the medical cannabis community, and all marijuana activists, need to brainstorm together about how to deal with the issue of dispensaries and recreational use.  We should always be honest and forthright about realities.  We need to demonstrate that all adults should have access to cannabis, and if there are recreational users going to the clubs, that simply shows that the market wants to be legitimate, and should be.  We need to state up front that we understand the clubs are being used by recreational tokers, but the solution to that abuse is not to close the dispensaries, but to allow clubs to sell to any adult and legitimize that market.

Name redacted #1
Virginia NORML
From: Name Redacted #2
To:  losangeles@lists.safeaccessnow.org
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007 5:01:59 PM
Subject: Re: [losangeles] recreational users at dispensaries

Dear Name #1  and List,

It is my fervent hope as counsel for five clinics, that none of them are dispensing medical marijuana to recreational users. There is  grossly insufficient support for total legalization. It is both a federal and state crime, and as one who has been waiting 40 years for the public to accept weed as a recreational drug, I don't think it's going to happen soon....although I suspect Leisure World will have a lot more medical marijuana stoners in about 10 years. Also, please do not assume that those going to clinics are recreational users disguised as patients. First, I think you may be wrong, and second, we would all be labeled as hypocrites, which is not true, and which the DEA has already done, thank you...

Name Redacted #2

From: Name Redacted # 3
To: losangeles@lists.safeaccessnow.org>losangeles@lists.safeaccessnow.org
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007 9:10 PM
Subject: RE: [losangeles] recreational users at dispensaries

With all due respect, I have asked well-educated people many times to accurately describe the difference between "medical" and "recreational" use. It can turn out to be a long discussion so let me cut to the chase -- no one can define the difference. No one can tell how much pain you have. No one but you can tell whether you have a nervous condition that requires medication to calm you down. The general convention is that if you go to the doctor to get a Valium, that is "medical". But if you drink a beer for the same result instead, that is "recreational". It is a false dichotomy.
It is even more ridiculous to sit in judgment on someone else's use when you can't feel the pain or discomfort that they are feeling. There is only one person who can really tell whether their pain and suffering is bad enough to require medication. There is only one person who can say what worked to relieve the pain. There is only one person who can really determine whether their use is "medical." That is the patient themselves.
Dr. Tom O'Connell will some day release a large body of research on medical marijuana patients. Dr. O'Connell has provided recommendations for medical marijuana for "mood disorder". What is "mood disorder:? It is the same thing for which doctors prescribe Valium. It is a problem with your "mood" - a recognized medical condition. If you have "mood disorder" then marijuana is a decidedly safer choice than Valium.  If a doctor can hand out Valium because someone is nervous and aspirin because they report they have a headache, then what are the limits on the "medical" use of marijuana?
Based on his research, Dr. O'Connell makes a convincing case that much of the regular "recreational" use of all drugs is really medical, in that people are actually self-medicating psychological symptoms -- without going to the doctor to get a prescription for Valium. This would actually apply to most of the regular use of all "recreational" drugs. As the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs pointed out, the most common reason given for people taking drugs (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, heroin, and Valium included) is that it "relaxes" them.
Dr. O'Connell has said that, in his opinion, "recreational" use becomes "medical" the first time someone buys it for themselves. By that standard, anyone who went to the trouble to go to the doctor and pay the fee would certainly be "medical".
In any event, it is rather pointless to sit here in judgment on the health of other people the same way that the DEA sits in judgment on you. Stop doing the "yassuh, boss" routine for the Federal Government. The problem is not "recreational" users in compassion clubs. The problem is a______s sitting in judgment on the suffering and proper medicine for others. You don't advance your own medical care by dumping on people who aren't as sick as you think they ought to be. All you do is reinforce the impression that there is lots of abuse.
What you should be doing is standing up for the only thing that makes sense -- "medical" is determined by the patient, not by the government or some casual observer on the street -- and it is nobody else's  g______n business.
If someone complains about "recreational" users I want to know how the hell they know anything about that person's personal life and medical history. In truth, anyone who makes that judgment doesn't know s__t about the other person and is just expressing the same old bigotry that got us into this situation in the first place.

Posted by tjeffo at July 18, 2007 05:10 AM